Fantastic Children Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, December 24, 2007
Release Date: Monday, August 20, 2007
What They Say
The GED Group's facility is attacked and secured by Gueroca's forces. From his spaceship high above, Dumas sends the Greecian scientists falling to the earth below as part of his final revenge against them. Gherta opens a mysterious part of her past that has been kept hidden until now. Thoma’s inner soul awakens, and he rediscovers who he is. Dumas orders the scientists to activate the transference device. However, Gherta defies Dumas. He must choose between following his father’s will, or allowing Helga to live freely on earth. Thoma enters the Interval to find her. But will either of them make it back alive?
23 – Gherta
24 – The Truth About Thoma
25 – To the Zone
26 – The End, and Then the Beginning
End of the line for what must be the most under-rated and over-looked series of 2007, as the Fantastic Children edge closer to completing their mission. But will Dumas prevent them..?
Audio is provided in Japanese, English and French 2.0 stereo – I went with the Japanese track for this review. While the audio is clear and easy to make out, there's very little use made of direction here – although to be fair, the way the story is presented doesn't give very much opportunity for that sort of creativity. There’s more action on this release than there has been on previous ones, and reasonable use is made of the soundstage there, but for the most part Fantastic Children is heavy on the dialogue, and that's kept to the centre channel. There were no obvious problems with the encoding, though.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format, video suffers from a pastel, washed-out feel that removes some of the impact of the scenes, and leaves the show looking less than its best. There were no obvious problems with the encoding, or with the subtitles.
Helga and Thoma feature on the front of this volume, in their white-haired versions. The rear has the usual promotional blurb and technical info, while a piece of artwork depicting Greecia is on the reverse.
Menus are available in either English or French - I went with English and was greeted with a static screen of a carved face & archway over a river, nestled in the jungle. An instrumental version of the opening theme plays throughout. Options are provided for Episodes, Bonus & Audio – there's a rather long transition animation when you select an option (a common gripe of mine with Beez releases), but once they're out of the way the menus are easy enough to use. Sadly, there's no option for Play All – you have to use the Episodes menu to start off each episode separately.
Along with the usual creditless versions of the opening & closing sequences, there’s a 6-minute epilogue sequence showing what happened to the Children after the main story ends.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Gueroca's ship - a true behemoth of a craft - hangs over the GED group's facilities, causing panic amongst the scientists there. Aboard the ship, Dumas reneges on his deal with Hesma - not only will he not allow the Children to return to Greecia, but he disconnects the power to the capsules that are preserving their real bodies, beginning the process that will lead to their deaths. He makes his best effort to kill the Children, as well - although he's not entirely successful this time. Helga, meanwhile, puts herself in Dumas' hands, trusting in him that his plan to return her to Princess Tina's body is the right thing to do, while Professor Gherta finally comes to terms with the existence of her past lives.
Later, Thoma confronts Dumas in an effort to get Helga back, but Dumas responds by sealing Helga inside a forcefield of some sort and then taking the fight directly to Thoma - and with Dumas' non-human strength and reflexes, Thoma is quickly beaten and left nursing his injuries as Dumas makes off. While trying to catch up with him, Thoma chances upon the chamber that holds the body of Princess Tina - the body that Dumas is planning to transfer Helga's soul into. He's entranced by what he sees - and also begins to remember the events of his own past life: as Seth, who killed Soran in a fit of jealousy after realising he'd lost to him in the search for Tina's affections, and with his own dying breath sent Tina's soul on its way to Earth. Tina, meanwhile, begins to realise that Dumas has his own problems to deal with...
Compared to the previous volumes of Fantastic Children, this final instalment is almost frenetic – although given that they moved at a glacial pace, that wouldn’t be too hard. As ever, there are several different tracks that the story keeps switching between – from Gherta, to Dumas, to Thoma and the Children – but now that the connections between these characters have been properly explained and we know what’s been going on behind the scenes, the flow of the story doesn’t feel anywhere near as disjoined as some of the earlier episodes felt.
So, let’s start with the disappointments. At the beginning of the series, Inspector Cooks and his assistant seemed to have major roles to play, and Cooks himself was one of the more interesting characters in the story. As it went on, though, their role shifted ever more into the background, and here his entire contribution lasts mere seconds. I was left wondering what the point of the character really was, beyond being a device to explain a few things early on, and I really do wish he’d been made more use of.
Helga’s also been an issue, with her personality left almost completely undeveloped throughout the series. As the real lead character, and the one with perhaps the most to lose from Dumas’ plans, it never seems quite right that she’s so quiet and accepting of whatever she’s told. The Children explained to her the truths behind her past, and she happily accepted that; Dumas explains another version of that to her, and she happily accepts it; when Thoma’s past becomes clear, she just accepts that too. She ends up just being too bland to be believable, and by this stage of the series that was beginning to get to me.
I could also talk about how some of the big revelations here could be seen a mile away, or pick on a few other little niggles, but that would be missing the point, though. Fantastic Children has its flaws, that’s undeniable, but taken as a whole it’s a high-class piece of work that has been left in the shadows through no real fault of its own. It’s beautiful, atmospheric, and moving, and the growth & maturing of the Children as the series goes on is one of its strongest points – for all that they’re hundreds of years old, and have been reincarnated numerous times, they were still children at the beginning of the series, and it’s through their interactions with Helga, Thoma and the others that they begin to realise that there’s more to life than the mission they had set themselves. That’s the real story of Fantastic Children, and the part of it that I enjoyed the most.
It’s a huge injustice that this series hasn’t received more attention – almost everyone I know who has seen Fantastic Children has loved it, but they’re far outnumbered by the people who have never even heard of it. While it’s not perfect, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Textless Opening & Closing Sequences,Epilogue
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fantastic Children